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No. 17 Maryland women’s basketball vs. Iowa preview

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The Terps are on the once road again to take on the Hawkeyes.

2019 BIG Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament - Championship Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Following a come-from-behind win over Ohio State on Monday night, No. 17 Maryland women’s basketball will head west to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes Thursday night.

Maryland suffered its worst loss of the season — a 81-58 defeat at the hands of Northwestern — the game before, dropping the Terps outside the top-15 in the country for the first time this year. But a season-high 28 points, including 16 in the second half, from senior guard Kaila Charles helped turn the tide against the Buckeyes, salvaging what could have been a disappointing start to conference play.

Head coach Brenda Frese and the Terps had routinely handled the Hawkeyes in every matchup since their arrival to the Big Ten six years ago, winning each of their first six contests against them. But last season proved to be Iowa’s year, as it defeated Maryland in both the regular season and the Big Ten tournament championship behind the heroics of senior Megan Gustafson — she had a combined 76 points and 27 rebounds in both matchups.

“You have to be ready to punch first,” Frese said of the matchup. “It’s a team that beat us twice last year, so for us, it’s having the mentality of what it’s going to take for 40 minutes.”

The game will tip-off at 8 p.m. and will be televised on Big Ten Network.

Iowa Hawkeyes (11-3. 2-1 Big Ten)

Head coach Lisa Bluder has now surpassed two decades as Iowa’s courtside captain, further building on her status as the all-time winningest coach in program history. With over 400 Hawkeye wins to her credit since arriving in 2000-01, Bluder earned 2019 Naismith Coach of the Year honors for her efforts last season and remains one of the top coaches in both the Big Ten and Division I.

Players to Know

Senior guard Kathleen Doyle (No. 17) leads Iowa in scoring this season, averaging 17.0 points per game on 42.9 percent shooting from the field. A consistent starter under Bluder since her freshman year, Doyle’s ability to score efficiently from all over the floor this season should put her in consideration for Big Ten Player of the Year. But Doyle can do much more than just shoot, wavering 5.9 assists and 4.4 rebounds for the Hawkeyes this season.

Senior guard Makenzie Meyer (No. 3) pairs with Doyle to create an experienced backcourt duo for Bluder, serving as one of the team’s key ball-handlers and primary threats from beyond the arc. Averaging 14.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game while shooting 44.0 percent from deep, Meyer can stretch the defense while also being able to find the open man when they close out.

Sophomore forward/center Monika Czinano (No. 25) has seen an increased role with the Hawkeyes this season, going from playing just 5.3 minutes per game last season to almost 28 this season. And she’s thrived so far, averaging 15.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game while shooting over 70 percent from the field. Expect Czinano to be a handful for the likes of Shakira Austin and Stephanie Jones Thursday night.

Strength

Assists. This Hawkeye team is one that has significant depth at the guard position, with each one in Bluder’s rotation being capable facilitators. Doyle and Meyer are the team’s two leading assisters, but outside of them Iowa has four other players with 18 assists or greater, putting them at fourth in the country in assists per game (21.5).

Weakness

Forcing turnovers. Unlike its opponent, Iowa struggles to consistently create takeaways. Through 14 games, the Hawkeyes have managed just 106 steals and 212 opponent forced turnovers, marks that both rank outside of the top-200 teams in Division I. With the Terps having surpassed their average of 15.1 turnovers per game in each of their last two showings, they should be able to navigate the Iowa defense with far lass miscues.

Three Things to Watch

1. Can Charles build off her best performance of the season? The 2019 Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year didn’t look much of the part for the early part of the season, but has come on hot as of late for the Terps. She’s set season-highs for points in two of Maryland’s last three games, getting involved in more creative ways as a screen-and-roller, in the fast break and in isolation sets.

“I just wanted to have high energy and effort,” Charles said. “Being a senior, your games are limited, so I just wanna play hard every single time I step out on the court.”

If Charles continues to play at the level she’s capable of, the Terps are gonna be a tough out come NCAA Tournament time.

2. Will Ashley Owusu be 100 percent healthy? The star freshman guard pulled up down the stretch of Maryland’s last game with an apparent cramp, causing her to miss the entirety of the fourth quarter of action. She participated in practice in the week leading up to Thursday’s game, but for a team that’s short on ball-handlers to begin with, a flare up for Owusu could prove costly.

3. Can the Terps play without fouling? Maryland’s last game against Ohio State was perhaps its most disciplined defensive performance this season against a Power 5 opponent, as it tied a season-low for personal fouls in a game with just 12. Facing an opponent that averages 14.5 free throws a game while connecting on over 70 percent of them, contesting without fouling and steering clear of the bonus will be important if the Terps want to pick up their biggest road win of the season (to this point).

“[We’re] really staying focused and making sure we don’t be sloppy and do unnecessary things that could affect the team in a negative way,” freshman guard Diamond Miller said.